My New Thing

I have decided to have a thing. I have not had a thing for ages because of children and work and grown-up stuff, and y’know.

I thought about returning to painting in oils – I still have a couple of easels, loads of palettes, knives, brushes, oil tubes – even metre squared canvases from the old days. The thing is it’s smelly and messy.  Oils take ages to dry, so you have a room full of conveyor belt canvases all at different stages of underpainting and prep. Nah.

The darkroom still has a sink, enlarger and all the gear – although I probably would toss out the chemicals and get fresh… but my wife has taken up photography, and is into it in a big way – fancy-dan digital cameras etc. I’m a bit lost with all that. Nah to that too.

Writing could be a thing – I have a list of what-I-think-are-brilliant ideas, but I don’t feel up to the commitment; I have found it to be all-engrossing, and work (and real life) would interfere and deter and something would have to give. So Nah again.

Well now – music! Of course!

My children are studying piano, and my wife and I still enjoy a wee jam of an evening from time-to-time. I could set up a little digital studio and play around with ideas.

I could perhaps dig out my old reels, minidiscs or the Teac 144 portastudio. There are loads of my old bands’ stuff on 4-track cassettes. Maybe I could transfer them into a digital form, clean them up and push out a clean mp3 file?

Yes. I have decided that this is what I shall do. My new thing will be music and recording onto a computer.

I need to think about where to begin as I know absolutely nothing about this.

What Is It With Religion Today?

People often say that we should never discuss religion or politics. But I see nothing but religion and politics on social media. So tonight, as I once again cannot sleep, and as yet another live Muslim terror attack appears on my screen, I thought I would try to get a perspective on religion. Sorry it’s not a funny blog post, but I hope it’s not too serious, opinionated or lecturing; it’s just me, as a bloke having a think out loud, really. Hope you like it, or get something from it. Anyway, here goes.

I wanted to know if the UK was religious, and I found the following on-line quotation that sums up all the sites I read:

One single fact can be found in all of the statistics: Britons are mostly non-religious and are increasingly both innocent and ignorant of religion.

(Source)

Numbers are available for this, for example:

Those who do profess religion in the UK are largely inactive.

A 2007 poll commissioned by the British Library found that 50% of religious folk “do not practice religion very much, if at all”, with Christians being the most inactive.

A 2014 poll found similar results, with 50% of British Jews saying that they are not at all religious Muslims were most religious, with only 7% saying they’re not.

(Source)

2011 Census  Adherents %
Christianity  33 200 000 59.3%
No Religion  14 100 000 25.1%
Islam  2 700 000 4.8%
Hinduism  817 000 1.5%
Sikhism  423 000 0.8%
Judaism  263 000 0.5%
Buddhism  248 000 0.4%
Jedi Knights  176 632 0.3%

(Source)

So it seems that Christianity is the biggest, but also pretty inactive, when you add that to those who see themselves as having No Religion (and perhaps Jedi Knights too), then it strongly suggests to me that the UK is overwhelmingly not a religious place.

Islam is the most practised religion, but there are very few Muslims in Britain – just 4.8%, 2.7 million, and of these, (the news media suggests) there are a few extremists – and only some of these are the ones doing the terror attacks. So although the numbers are very small, the impact is very large in terms of media coverage and the effect on us all – in terms of searches and security at airports, fear and suspicion and more.

It seems to be the same in the USA, despite the success of Bible Belt fundamental Christian media, religion in general is in serious decline there too.

Religiosity in the United States is in the midst of what might be called ‘The Great Decline.’ Previous declines in religion pale in comparison. Over the past fifteen years, the drop in religiosity has been twice as great as the decline of the 1960s and 1970s.

Last year brought a continuation of this decline. 2013 was a new low for the level of religiosity in the country.

(Source)

The Source has a very good graph of 61 years of decline in religiosity for you to check out if you feel like it.

I looked around various search engine results, changed the search wording a bit, and it seems plain now to me that religion has been dying for decades in the UK, the USA and Europe. That is the trend.

It can be taken as the trend for the “West” or the “Developed” nations or “First world”. I needed to find some information about what’s happening everywhere else.

How  do things stand across the world?

Religion Adherents Percentage
Christianity 2.2 billion 31.50%
Islam 1.6 billion 22.32%
Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist ≤1.1 billion 15.35%
Hinduism 1 billion 13.95%
Chinese traditional religion 394 million 5.50%
Buddhism 376 million 5.25%
Ethnic religions excluding some in separate categories 300 million 4.19%
African traditional religions 100 million 1.40%
Sikhism 23 million 0.32%

OK, now this shows that all the Catholic and Protestant Christian faiths when taken all together, beat Islam. But it could be that many may be inactive – in the same way that I found in the UK study earlier.

And of course, religion, except Islam and a few others, is in decline – so at the present time the world is mostly Christian/ No religion and Islam.

The next question is – what about the future?

…the total number of religiously unaffiliated people (which includes atheists, agnostics and those who say they have no particular religion on censuses and surveys) is expected to rise, from 1.1 billion in 2010 to 1.2 billion in 2050. But this growth is projected to occur at the same time that other religious groups – and the global population overall – are growing faster.

(source)

A Daily Mail / New Scientist article suggests that affluence makes the elite, rich switch to a slower lifestyle, having fewer children and having them later in life too – putting them at risk evolutionarily when compared with the live-fast, die-young, poor – and this, they suggest, is why moralising religions were devised – to level the playing field.

It seems then that historically, the most religious countries have been the most primitive or undeveloped economically, and as this changes, their people have moved away from religion. The question is whether that will still be the case for the third world.

However, recent studies indicate that Hindus and Muslims are not following that route, and seem to hold onto their religions despite development.

This suggests that the future will be polarised between a growing Muslim population across the world, and a non religious/inert Christianity.

This has economic impact because Islam forbids banks to charge interest under Sharia law. So banks make money by lending money to business and taking a share of the profits.

Now, this may seem like a great idea because the banks share the risk – but it also means that banks would evaluate business more stringently, and lend much less, creating a stagnant economic model.

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There is another consideration here too – that of culture. It is rarely mentioned, but people in the UK are culturally Christian. God is on the money along with the Queen – who is head of the Church of England and Defender of The Faith. Christmas and Easter are celebrated, and people marry in church. Children learn about Noah’s Ark, the Nativity, and other Bible Stories. The UK has cathedrals and a long history of religious wars, mainly between Catholic Christians and Protestants – but also the Crusades against Islam. The Industrial Revolution was the result of a strange combination of the Enlightenment and something called the Protestant Work Ethic.

So while there may be a decline in Christianity as a religion, as a culture, it seems more robust. This may be where Muslims and Christians clash the most just now in the UK. However, as the table of numbers showed, they are far too small a population to be a real concern regarding dominance in terms of religion or of culture.

Globally is a different case. There are terrorist groups, such as Islamic State, who seem to have real issues with people who do not follow their particular flavour of Islam. The extremists tend to target other Muslims, but they are better known for those occasions when they attack non-Muslims, or when they attack “the West”.

At one time, it would have been thought that prosperity for middle eastern countries would solve the problems, but as oil has enriched some of these countries, matters have got worse instead of better, and as I just found out, Islam seems to buck the trend for religious adherence falling away as people get affluent.

My little trip round the internet has been more interesting than worrying. Donald Trump’s calls for a ban on Muslims being allowed into the USA – or racists in the UK voting for Brexit in order to control Muslim entry seem more about fears of losing cultural identity than stopping terrorism.

The number of suicidal western-hating Muslim terrorists is too small for any country to manage an effective pre-emption or defence strategy; you cannot legislate for random acts by a few crazy people.

That’s a rubbish conclusion, isn’t it? We cannot do anything. And it’s annoying to me that these few idiots can have such a disproportionate effect. Sometimes I wonder if the real aim of the terrorists is to get us spending resources on security and making everyone’s lives that bit more of a drag.

The politicians seem to feel the need to show voters that this is serious, and that we need to have vigilance and security measures that put our basic freedoms at risk.

I suppose we can share intelligence, have secret services monitor social media and generally keep an eye on who’s buying bombs and plane tickets. But is it worth losing freedoms and privacy rights? Is it worth xrays and removing shoes and belts in airports?

There are other, less obvious, ways to undermine Islamic terrorism, the developed world needs to switch away from oil toward renewables, to take a different view on recreational drugs, to fundamentally change the banking and investment sector, and to allow China to rise to take over the role of World Police. The end of Pax Britannica led to Pax Americana. I don’t know what to call it when it goes to China!

These measures seem to be what is going on, so I feel somewhat re-assured for the future.

 

 

 

Blending In

My son was recently invited to a birthday party.

The invitation stated conditions. Not merely the date, time and place – but also that it was a Nerf Gun party and everyone had to be in army camouflage.

Well, an 8 year old wants to oblige, so we had to have a panic trip to the shops to get camouflage trousers.

KIDS-CAMO-TROUSERS

After an hour  in a major mall, we managed to source camouflage trousers. He was delighted; he wanted to fit in.

I dropped him off at the softplay centre for the party. he was the only one who had bothered about the camouflage theme. Seriously.

As I drove away, it occurred to me that I was worried about my son not fitting in, that he would stand out because he was in camouflage.

Then I realised how preposterous / ironic that was.

Summer Better Than Others

There is a heatwave in Glasgow presently. It’s Not Good. It’s uncomfortable in too many ways. It is certainly not a feast for the eyes. A holiday this is not.

Days of relentless sunshine have taken their toll on Weegies and their usual activities. The bums who drink cheap wine and superlagers in the public parks year round now have to contend with families and pets, and vice versa.

Everyone is sunburned or tanned to a burnished mahogany.

As a man, the thing that gets me is that females whittle clothing down to a risqué minimum and then, as they mince around or lounge about on bits of grass, frown at you for having the audacity to glance at them during a scan survey of possible places to set up camp with the family.

I am genuinely not interested in lusting after their bodies, and would prefer it if they either stopped dressing like that, or stopped trying to make me feel guilty. Their frowns and eye rolling compete with my eye rolling, sad head shake, and exasperated tutting.

The truth is that my eyesight is not what it was. But they won’t know that. In addition, I am happily married and perfectly satisfied, so I would like to be left in peace and equilibrium.

Then there are those women who wear veils and black gowns. Why are they going to sunny parklands or beaches – I don’t get that. I have no problem with them doing so, it’s up to them, but I have to say it doesn’t look comfortable, and they ain’t getting a tan that is for sure. They also seem to be attracted to me; they always set up camp very close-by. Unlike the scantily-clad girls, these women see me as an elderly unthreatening safe haven.

The main annoyance with a large group of these women and their children is that if you feel that they are too noisy, and decide to relocate, it looks like you are a racist or something.  If they drop litter everywhere, you feel you can’t say anything, so you sit in silence, and avert your eyes.

You decide to make the best of it – get out a sandwich or a wee sausage and a soft drink from the cool bag. This brings over the dogs.

The dogs walk onto the blanket, knocking things over, and stick their noses into things – while their owners shout and come over to pull their away by the collar. You feel like saying that the sign clearly states that all dogs are to be on a lead, but you don’t. You just throw away the contaminated picnic into a bag for the litter bin later.

Time for a kickabout with the lad. In consideration of everyone else, you play one-touch – passing the ball back and forth as quickly as possible using alternate feet, but your son treads in a big runny dog poo. The wipes are produced and everything is disinfected.

You settle down for a read, but the breeze has changed and the smoke from the portable barbecue fired up by a hipster and his moll catches your breath.

A man in a red Adidas track suit, accompanied by his sister or daughter (possible both) – also in an Adidas track suit, settle down and decide to play their favourite Now That’s What I Call Very Ethnic Music 25. It’s lively and has complex beats and traces of melody, and it is just loud enough to gain your full attention despite their crap smartphone speakers.

You think about relocating, but there are groups of people drinking wine over there, and screaming babies and prams over here. It’s getting busier every minute, and you realise that there will be a traffic jam to get out of the park unless you make a move right away.

As you pack up, you are hit on the head by a tennis ball. “Sorry!” you hear, as you toss it back to a tattooed man in shorts and slip-ons. His son is (despite the heat) wearing a Spiderman onesie.

You try to put your litter in the bin, but it is overflowing, and covered in flies and wasps – and large seabirds have pulled a lot of stuff out and everything is strewn about the area of the bin. You try to stop your daughter seeing a man peeing into the nettles by suddenly coming to life as super Dad the child lifter-upper.

As you pack the car, the midgies come out and nip you to the edge of reason. The drive out of the park is fraught because cars have been abandoned in passing places – which have been grabbed as parking spots by the SUV drivers. The air con hasn’t kicked in yet, but you can’t open the windows because the air con is switched on. It’s hot and the traffic lights only let one car through at a time.

Every petrol station has a queue for the car wash.

There are road restrictions because there is a Women’s 10K run on, as well as roadworks, diversions, and a funeral procession. The supermarkets have run out of ice cream, water and sun lotions. There are rows of empty shelves in the beer aisles.

You park and take the family for a stroll after the hot car trip home. But all the pubs and restaurants that can, have the windows open and for once the smokers are at one with the rest of the drinkers and eaters. Dogs and ciggy smoke everywhere.

There are a lot of bad tan lines, uncomfortable looking people trying to get through this infernal heat and unnatural blue skies. The holiday clothes have been dug out of the suitcase and pressed into service early.  Men are wearing long shorts, which, with socks, reveals only 25 mm of actual leg to the elements.

Adult men in shorts is, was, always has been, and always will be an abomination. I do not need a tan on my legs because I am the only one who sees my legs, so what’s the point? Also wearing long shorts looks really bad, and it is not in the slightest bit cooler.

It is weird having holiday weather at home because it is not holiday. You don’t have a pool or the sea to cool off. It’s got all the downside and none of the upside.

I’m praying for rain, and looking forward to my real holidays!